A couple of weekends ago, I had an unplanned, walk-in portfolio review with Gerd Ludwig. I was attending the Photosynthesis event at the Annenberg with my friend Jerry Webber. I had a small number of prints with me to show to him. I had 4 night-time color images from my journey to Oaxaca which I printed on my Epson R3000 and my old Canon PixmaPro 9000 mk II. There were printed to show the difference in the two printers, especially in the bright oranges and magentas. I also had a stack of about 20 images which were part of my B&W film project for the NSEW (North-South-East-West) project for the Film Shooters Collectivegroup I’m in. This wasn’t a portfolio prepared for review, it was just a collection of recent work that I had printed to casually show to a friend. It wasn’t my best work nor was it my most representative work, but it was good work.
Gerd did a first silent pass. Then he started on his main comments prefaced with “My job is not to tell you that you are good, my job is to show you how you can do better.” He went through each image with a short comment, stopping on some and being pretty cursory on others. Overall his impression was that my work was “too safe”, too distant from the subject. As photojournalistic photographers, we hear this admonition of not being close enough all them time – quoting Capa: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” He also commented on the cleanliness of my compositions, but indicated that perhaps they were too clean, too quiet.
When I returned home I started studying Gerd Ludwig’s work. As a photojournalist (one from the top stable at the National Geographic), he is a wide angle junkie. While I’ve been shooting mostly with a 35mm for the past year and a half, I suspect most of his images are more in the 24–28mm range. I’m not sure I always agree with his wide-angle style to pull the viewer into the image, but I did what good students do, and challenged myself to step closer, shoot wider, and add a little more chaos.
Here are a few from my night at the Ventura County Fair challenging myself to get a little closer and work a little looser with more (even more) layers.